Gatt concessions 'could lead to more set-aside'

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

CONCESSIONS made in the Gatt trade talks may require more land to be set aside from production, farmers were warned yesterday at their annual conference in London, writes Oliver Gillie.

Implementation of the Gatt arrangements will lead to a fall of 21 per cent in subsidised agricultural exports by the end of the century, David Naish, president of the National Farmers' Union, said. This is much better than the 100 per cent reduction in subsidies that the US government demanded at the start of negotiations, but Mr Naish doubted that it could be met by existing reforms of the European Community's Common Agricultural Policy.

'We challenge the Government's assertion that the two are compatible,' Mr Naish said. 'The European Commission's assertion is based on a mixture of guesswork, following last year's CAP deal, and speculation about what is likely to happen on world markets. I believe the commission is being far too optimistic in its forecast about future levels of production and consumption.'

High rates of set aside, which some commentators said would be necessary to meet the Gatt objectives of a reduction in tariffs, will never be acceptable to the NFU, Mr Naish said. If a Gatt agreement was to be signed to benefit the economy as a whole, then the Government had to ensure that the agricultural community could survive and adapt.

Raymond Seitz, the US ambassador, said President Clinton wished to continue the American aim of opening up markets, but warned that the President was prepared to enforce US trade laws to assure equal footing.